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How Does Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work in South Carolina?

Car with heavy rear-end damage following an auto accident on a street.

If you were involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may be concerned about having your damages paid for. The good news is that you can file an uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) claim. However, the process is often complex. To help you better understand UM/UIM, the car accident attorneys at Johnson + Johnson explain how it works.

Is underinsured motorist coverage required in South Carolina?

If you operate a motor vehicle in South Carolina, you're required to carry UM. This compensates you if you're involved in a crash with a driver who doesn't carry car insurance. Also, if you're involved in a hit-and-run accident and can't identify the other driver, UM coverage can compensate you for your injuries and damages.

UIM is not required in South Carolina. However, insurance companies must offer it as an option to their policyholders. UIM insurance is designed to compensate you in the event of a car accident with a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover your damages.

"South Carolina law only requires a meaningful offer of UIM be made, which means you can reject it, " Attorney Steven W. Johnson said. "But here's why you shouldn't: UIM can protect you and your passengers in the event of a car accident involving a driver who is insured but doesn't have enough liability coverage to pay for your injuries and injury-related expenses. As for coverage limits, my advice is simple: Go for the maximum you can afford. Aim for at least $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident."

When you purchase car insurance in South Carolina, you should receive a form from your insurance carrier. This form allows you to confirm whether you want to include or exclude UIM coverage from your policy.

"Here's the reality check – there are many drivers out there often carrying minimal limits like $25,000/$25,000," Johnson said. "Imagine you're hit by one of them, and your medical bills and injury-related expenses exceed that driver's minimum liability limits. That's when your UIM coverage can save the day. Now, consider the same scenario, but this time, the at-fault driver is uninsured (i.e. the at-fault driver has no insurance). That's where your UM coverage can save the day.

What does underinsured motorist coverage pay for?

UM/UIM coverage can compensate you for the following types of damages:

  • Medical expenses: UM/UIM coverage can help pay for medical bills resulting from crash-related injuries. This includes hospitalization, surgeries, doctor's visits, medication, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages: If you're unable to work due to crash-related injuries, this coverage provides compensation for your lost income.
  • Pain and suffering: This type of coverage helps cover non-economic damages such as physical pain, emotional distress, and suffering.
  • Property damage: If your vehicle or other property is damaged in a crash, UM/UIM insurance may help cover the cost of repairs or replacement.
  • Funeral expenses: In tragic cases where a collision results in a fatality, UM/UIM coverage may help with funeral and burial expenses.
  • Passenger coverage: UM/UIM coverage can also extend to protect passengers in your vehicle who may not have their own insurance.

What if I was involved in a crash and I don't have UIM?

If you don't have UIM coverage and you were involved in a crash with an underinsured driver, you're not completely out of options. If you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage or MedPay, they can pay for your medical expenses. Like UIM, PIP and MedPay are optional in South Carolina.

Another option is to use your own health insurance policy to pay for your crash-related medical expenses. However, be aware that you may have to pay some medical expenses out-of-pocket. Many health insurance plans have a deductible. This is the amount you must pay before your insurance coverage begins to pay for your medical expenses. The deductible can vary widely between plans, and some plans may have no deductible for certain services.

Should I hire a lawyer if I was injured in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver?

Whether you are injured in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver, or struck in a hit-and-run, it's important to understand your rights. An experienced South Carolina car accident attorney at Johnson + Johnson Attorneys at Law can advise you on what steps to take throughout the course of your claim. Contact us online or call our Lexington, South Carolina law office to find out how we can help you. We offer free, no-obligation case evaluations.

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